How to Use a Controlled Burn to Clear an Open Field or Pasture and Do it Safely
When it’s time to clear a pasture or open field by a controlled burn it’s necessary to plan and prepare to do it safely. Fire can be an important tool in keeping land productive and useful but it has real dangers. Having the right plan, proper tools, and being ready to use them, will keep the danger to a minimum.
Any burn, whether a small pile or pasture burn requires a plan. Your plan should include checking local requirements or restrictions. Areas under drought conditions restrict outdoor burning. In addition, it is very important to check weather forecasts for wind conditions. The NOAA website is an excellent source for up to date maps and forecasts. Notifying the neighbors and the local fire station will avoid problems and help keep relationships positive. Making a checklist of tools and equipment helps to think things through. Scheduling the burn early enough to make sure that it is over before the end of the day is important so that you can know the fire is totally out and will not restart with any increase in wind and spread embers. Too often, embers can be carried by high winds and start fires. Sudden changes in the weather can be a serious problem, so having enough experienced help on hand and keeping them informed makes a great difference. Good communications are important, so charge all the phone batteries and have mobile chargers on hand.
Digging fire breaks will prevent a fire from spreading beyond the planned burn area. For large areas, ploughing or even harrowing a wide strip to bare ground will do the job. Make sure that you have fire suppression equipment at the ready.
Sturdy hoses, a water supply source (either from a sprayer or other mobile means), and easy to use/portable fire extinguishers like STOP-FYRE® should be available for helpers so they can react to any spread of the fire outside the burn area. As fire can spread quite rapidly, our Standard and High Capacity STOP-FYRE® units can be your best ally given that they are compact and lightweight. Besides, you can use them multiple times without leaving any mess to clean up!
Escape routes and fire-resistant clothing are also important for safety of the helpers. Livestock should also be moved away from the burn zone and any chemical containers which could give off dangerous fumes when burned.
Tools and equipment.
If a large area is to be burned, having tractors or other heavy equipment ready is a good idea. Being able to cut an additional fire break, or move a mobile sprayer or water tank to where it is needed will keep any surprises to a minimum. Fire is unpredictable and being ready for anything makes for a safe burn. Being ready to move quickly to a problem area with the right equipment is part of the process. Always remember to keep vehicles far enough from the fire as well. Shovels and hand tools are good for controlling smaller burns. Fire safe clothing, face masks, as well as heavy gloves, will prevent personal injury and a first aid kit should be on hand for “just in case”.
Remember that no embers should be left burning. After a cool down period, check the ground and extinguish any doubtful areas. This is another place where a STOP-FYRE® extinguisher will come in handy. When all embers are out and the area is safe, you can say “good job” and call it a day.